As we continue to draw even closer to opening night, it is time to look at some contract situations that could have implications on the upcoming season.
The “contract year”. So many players seem to raise their level of play during the last year of their contract, fighting to prove they deserve another one. There are several Dallas Stars on the last year of their contracts. Some will be looking to prove they still deserve an NHL contract while others will be trying to show that they deserve a raise. Let’s look at the Stars who will be looking for a new contract next summer.
For the purpose of this article, I will only be looking at players who are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. I will not be going into the restricted free agents at this time. Also, all salary cap and contract data is from capfriendly.com
Jordie Benn – Defenseman
The elder Benn had quite the interesting season. After a really solid 2013-14, he struggled early in the 2014-15 season. Stars fans were calling for a trade almost the entire season as they felt Jordie was a waste of a roster spot. While he certainly had his struggles (like everyone else on this team defensively), for the most part he was a solid defenseman who played a lot of good minutes for Dallas this past season. As soon as Jason Demers joined the Stars in November, Benn began to turn his game around.
According to leftwinglock.com, Benn spent 56.27% of his total time on the ice with Demers as a defense partner. The next highest player was the one who was traded for Demers, Brenden Dillon, who came in at 17.48%. As soon as Demers jumped on board, Benn was a steadier defenseman. Why? A big reason is that Benn was often the player who would play on his “off-side” when paired with another left-handed defenseman. Demers, being right-handed, took over the right side and allowed Benn to move back to a more natural position. Demers also excelled at getting the puck out of his own zone, which rubbed off on Benn as the season moved along.
After being paired with Demers, their numbers together skyrocketed. Before Demers arrived, Benn was posting a 51.2 corsi-for-% at even strength while putting up a 48.3 scoring-chances-for % as well. By the end of the season, Benn was at a 54.43 CF% and a 54.37 SCF%. Those numbers, combined with just a $700,000 cap hit make Benn a fantastic bottom-pairing defenseman for this upcoming season.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Dallas Stars for three years at $1.75M per year.
Jason Demers – Defenseman
Speaking of Demers, he will also be looking for a new contract next summer and Stars fans should hope he sticks around. He instantly became a fan favorite, as he scored a goal and obliterated a Los Angeles King in his Stars debut. Nobody on the Stars had a higher percentage in terms of scoring-chances-for and corsi-for at even strength. Only John Klingberg had more takeaways among Dallas defensemen than Demers. Only Trevor Daley had fewer giveaways than Demers did for the Stars group of defensemen. He is the perfect mix of offense and defense. Demers is a great puck-mover but he isn’t going to be flashy in the offensive zone. He has a great presence in the locker room and the Stars would love to have him back.
Unfortunately for Dallas, Demers may command a little more money than they are willing to give. His current cap hit for Dallas is only $2.210M, but a big part of that is the San Jose Sharks are currently absorbing just under $1.2M of his total. His total cap hit is $3.4M a season and he will likely get at least a small raise thanks to his play in Dallas. The Stars are looking at about $15.3M in cap space next season while having just 14 players on the roster. Big names such as Alex Goligoski and Val Nichushkin should be the priorities for the Stars heading into the offseason. That being said, if the Stars are able to save elsewhere, they may be able to keep Demers if his contract is reasonable.
Prediction: Signs elsewhere in free agency for five years at $4.25M per year.
Colton Sceviour – Forward
Sceviour is going to be an interesting decision for Jim Nill next summer. On one hand, he will not be expensive and is a solid contributor for a fourth-line player. He’s still relatively young and has shown an ability to play up the lineup should injuries occur. At the same time, his rate of production dropped significantly after his first season and there are some young players who will be looking to take his roster spot such as Brett Ritchie.
Overall, he would be a good guy to keep around. His production is decent and if anything he can be the teams extra forward in case of injuries. He won’t command a large contract and he has a natural goal-scoring ability.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Dallas Stars for two years at $800K per year.
Travis Moen, Vernon Fiddler and Patrick Eaves – Forwards
Why did I lump these three players together? Well, they are three players who likely won’t be re-signed by the Stars and are in very similar situations. All three players have cap hits of less than $2M a season. While Eaves may see the occasional minutes in the top-6, most of the time these players will spend on the ice will be in a bottom-6 role.
Moen has been average in Dallas and players such as Mattias Janmark and Curtis McKenzie will likely be filling his role next season. His time in Dallas will almost certainly be finished after this year.
Fiddler has been incredible as a Star. He has been a leader on the penalty-kill and in the locker room. He has stuck through some bad years and turned down bigger offers to return to Dallas last season saying he wanted to “finish the job”. Here is hoping that Dallas is able to reward him with a Stanley Cup this season because it is unlikely he will be back next year. Radek Faksa is finally knocking on the door and has a similar play-style to Fiddler. Look for Fiddler to sign a one-year contract with a Cup contender that isn’t Dallas.
Eaves probably has the highest chance of returning to Dallas as he is the youngest of these three players and has less competition for his roster spot. Even so, there is a lot of talent in the pipeline for the Stars and there are bigger priorities in free agency than Eaves.
Prediction: All three sign one-year contracts elsewhere in free agency.
Alex Goligoski – Defenseman
Just a couple of days ago, the Dallas Stars named Alex Goligoski as an alternate captain for the upcoming season. With Fiddler likely on the way out, Dallas will not want to lose another player of their leadership core. Oh, and Goligoski is the best defenseman on the team. As a top-pairing defenseman with a lot of offensive upside, he will be a hot commodity going into free agency if the Stars do not lock him up before July 1st.
Nobody on the Stars had a better scoring-chances-for differential than Goligoski this past season. He averaged more time on ice than every other player on the team and made the most out of every minute. Originally brought in by Joe Nieuwendyk to be a puck-moving, offensive defenseman, Goligoski has transitioned towards being one of the better two-way defenders in the NHL. He still produces at a solid pace at roughly .5 points per game since becoming a Star. With the quality minutes Goligoski gives Dallas on a nightly basis, re-signing him should be a top priority.
Just how much money will Goligoski get? His current cap hit is $4.6M per season which is a steal given his performance. He could likely get at least $6M a year in free agency and the Stars will probably have to give him something around that number. At age 30, he isn’t over-the-hill and should have plenty of good years left. Look for Dallas to lock up their best defenseman before free agency begins.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Dallas Stars for four years at $6M per year.
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix